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India, Pak impasse unlikely to end soon: Pentagon

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

The current impasse in ties between India and Pakistan is unlikely to end soon given the fragile government in Islamabad, overshadowed by a powerful military that heavily influences policies on Kashmir and Afghanistan, a top Pentagon official has said.

"And unquestionably, there remains a level of tension across the border that is hard to impact," Admiral Richard Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), said while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The admiral told lawmakers that given the turmoil Pakistan has been in for the last couple of years, it's hard to imagine that a fragile governance in Islamabad is going to break the impasse in the ties.

The improvement, the US commander said, in relationship between the two South Asian neighbours requires a very high level of commitment, which seems to be unlikely at present even after New Delhi's effort in this regard.

"There are certainly dynamics between India and Pakistan that are based on historical animosities ages old that we're all aware of. And Kashmir has often been a focal point for those antagonism to play out," Willard said.

"The recent concerns in Kashmir that manifested both in demonstrations within the valley have resulted in some of the accusations that have gone back and forth regarding Chinese presence in the region and so on, as well as terrorist activity across the line of control, are making this particular challenge acute for the moment," he noted.

"I think the Indians have made overtures to attempt to work more closely, at least at the ministerial level, with Pakistan in terms of ongoing discussions. But unquestionably, there remains a level attention across that border that is very hard to impact," Willard said.

Willard argued that it is important that the US continue to work with both these partners very carefully and thoughtfully in order to encourage them to come to the table.

"India has very firm views on this and are sometimes quick to remind us that, in their view, is Kashmir is a bilateral issue and theirs alone to deal with," he said.

"I think that the way in which we handle this challenge, the way in which we deal with the two military, the way in which we encourage their respective governments to engage, very, very important, not just to India and to Pakistan, two nuclear-powered countries, but to all of South Asia and to the dynamic in Afghanistan that is of great concern to us," Willard said.

Willard was responding to a question from Senator Kay Hagan. "Securing Pakistani regional cooperation, while placating India, is a difficult task. Pakistani officials seek a long-term bilateral partnership with the US based on regional vision conducive to Pakistanis' strategic interests," he said.

"That's going to be difficult to develop as long as there continues to be an India-Pakistani impasse on Kashmir. Progress is possible as the US carefully reduces India's expectations for influence in Afghanistan, facilitates the Pakistani movement to reduce its proxies in Afghanistan and gets India and Pakistan to the negotiating table," he said.

First Published: Wed, April 13 2011. 17:37 IST